This I Believe

Roberta - Swanzey, New Hampshire
Entered on July 27, 2007

This I Believe

When life was unfolding with the certainty of the tall maple in their yard coming into leaf, my parents would be at the front door greeting us when we arrived — not out of polish or courtesy, but genuine belonging — which, looking back, gave meaning to my life that I never thought to question.

In old photos it’s clear that as my father aged he became half of what he once was — from a driven, decisive provider and impeccable dresser, to one sharing with warmth and vulnerability his papers as he sat at his desk. If he could have captured time to spend with me and I could have stayed, how soothed both of us would have been.

It was not until months after my father’s long dissolving into death after a devastating stroke did I ponder what is most important: it’s kindness, and from that, understanding — that I should not have been impatient with his reasoning when he was dealing with mild dementia; that I should have known to accept his love in the way he was able to give it.

The last time my brother and I were with him at the nursing home — he able to make only a few sounds, unable to move on his own — and I, not caring about what I wanted to do or where I wanted to be, gave to meet his needs, out of tenderness — out of kindness. I could’ve learned it no other way.

A funeral director once said, “First one mourns one’s parents, then one becomes them.” Now, reaching out to my children, I’m realizing my parents’ depth of generosity, as when I showed my father the pin my mother had given me because I’d admired it. “Whatever Mom gives you is good,” he said without caring which one it was.

Why am I so aware to give love now? Because out of deep loss I want to fill my children’s need, making my husband and me a sanctuary for them to come to as my parents were in their home. And because I hope they will reciprocate by enriching our lives with their and their children’s presence, creating memories that will sustain us both.